Productivity

Apple Acquires Workflow!

I am still playing spring catch-up. A lot has happened in tech over the winter and early spring, a lot of it I wanted to write about but was lost in them sea of band concerts, assessments, conferences, and the like.

This one was very exciting for me...

Earlier this year, Apple acquired iOS productivity app Workflow (Download Link). You can read the general details of that acquisition here.

MacStories has a great write up of what this could mean for both Workflow and Apple here.

Workflow is one of the only reasons I can use an iPad to get work done. It is a standout app and anyone reading this should immediately stop and go download it from the App Store now that it is free. Workflow is at the core of a number of tasks I do on my iPad that are essential to teaching band on a daily basis. I wrote about it in my book, Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers. Actually, one of the workflows I am most proud of including in the book is made in Workflow: by tapping a single button, a clean copy of a student seating chart is copied and exported into the Notability app where I can annotate it on half of the screen while I read my scores in forScoe on the other half of the screen. These annotated seating charts are later archived by date and used to help me remember information about my students and generate weekly rehearsal participation grades.

It's hard to say what this Apple acquisition could mean. I think the best case scenario is that the Workflow will get deeper access to the features of iOS, allowing even more powerful automations, perhaps even being rebranded "Automator" like the macOS app that functions similarly. Time will tell. In the meantime, go download Workflow!

Great iOS 11 concept video

Check out this expertly executed concept video of features that Federico Viticci hopes will come to the iPad in iOS 11. 

I use my iPad for getting work done more and more everyday. There are still a lot of hurdles in the software for getting work done. I think Federico has done a great job illustrating how some of these problems could be solved in an elegant way that doesn't confuse the intuitive nature of iOS. 

I will loose my mind if Apple announces a file management feature anything like the Finder demoed in this video. Apple's developer conference kicks off with a keynote at 1 pm on June 5 where they are expected to announce next years iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS feature updates. Announcements of some hardware products, including a Siri powered speaker to rival the Amazon Echo, are also rumored to appear. 

My iPad Homescreen - August 7th, 2016 Edition

There is nothing more fun for an app nerd than discussing their homescreen. The homescreen is the screen on a mobile device that contains the most essential apps for the conscious user. I am always changing this screen depending on the time of year, apps I am using frequently, and new apps I am trying out. Here is what my current homescreen looks like...

My current homescreen.

My current homescreen.

And a brief description of some noteworthy apps on it...

The Dock

Messages - With iMessage, my iPad is just another window into my text conversations. I use this app just as much on the iPad and Mac as I do on the phone.

Spark Mail - One of my favorite Mail app replacements. Spark has enough power features to merit its own blog post, but the feature I am finding quite useful right now is the ability to filter just the important notifications so I am not bothered by junk email throughout the day.

Notes - The Apple Notes app is increasingly becoming my go to for most of my note taking needs. I love using it for checklists, outlines, and sketching. The action extension (accessible from within any iOS app by pressing the square with the arrow pointing out of it) allows me to clip whatever I am looking at, no matter the app, into a new note or existing note.

OmniFocus - This app runs my life. I keep it on the dock for easy access to my tasks and projects.

Drafts - Most of what I type on the iPad starts here and then later gets filtered into the app that best suits its content. I am often sending drafts to Twitter, OmniFocus, Notes app, and my blog app.

Other Essentials

Dropbox - Pretty much all of my documents live here. This is where I browse, edit, and share them from my iPad.

Documents - Think of Documents as the missing Finder app on iPad. It allows you to work with files locally on the iPad but also from various cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. In fact, it allows you to see all of your content from all of your cloud drives all in the same window. Right now this is crucial for me because I am using a personal and professional Google Drive account simultaneously. Documents allows me to be logged into both of them at the same time, something not even my Mac can do.

Pages - Of all the basic "office" style applications I work with, Pages is perhaps the most essential. Pages is a beautiful and intuitive replacement for Microsoft Word. I love how it seamlessly syncs my documents across all devices through iCloud Drive.

Byword - Byword is a plain text editor. If I am typing a document of length that doesn't need to look pretty or include any multimedia, I usually type it here. Byword has a clutter free atmosphere that allows me to focus on just the text I am typing rather than buttons and tools.

forScore - My entire mobile score workflow is based on this app. I pull scores from my Dropbox account right into forScore where I can annotate them, perform from them, categorize them, and add all sorts of interesting metadata to them.

Blog - This is the app I use to post to my blog on my Squarespace website.

Notion - Still the best music notation software on iPad. I use it for small projects and defer to Sibelius on my Mac still for larger scale work. Notion allows you to scribble on a staff with the Apple Pencil and then it converts your hand writing into crystal clear notation. It's magical.

Recent Favorites:

Google Drive - I have been deviating a little bit from my entirely Dropbox based workflow recently, in part because some colleagues of mine prefer to use Google Drive for collaboration. I really like the Google Drive app. I just wish that the Google Docs and Sheets app took advantage of iPad Pro split screen multitasking.

Sheets - Of all the a Google Doc apps, Sheets is the one I use the most. There are a bunch of ways to use cloud drives to collaborate with others on spreadsheets but Google Sheets is the only one I trust to sync everyone's data reliably. I use this app very frequently to access docs related to scheduling and inventory.

GoodNotes - Although I am using Apple Notes for most things, I find that a few tasks require a little more power. GoodNotes is great at a couple of things. First of all, it has excellent Apple Pencil support for handwritten note taking and sketching. Next, I love how easy it is to combine my own notes along with other PDFs from my iPad all into the same notebooks. GoodNotes (and apps like Notability, which I was previously using until I started trying GN) does the best job allowing me to immediately scribble on top of PDFs. Many PDF annotation apps offer this feature but typically take a couple of taps to enter into annotation mode. GoodNotes feels more like a piece of paper. Also, while there are plenty of great dedicated score apps (including Notion from earlier in this post), I love that GN has a staff paper option. In fact, it is easy to intermingle a diverse range of paper styles all within the same notebook.

Slack - What is Slack? My favorite communication tool on the planet. Slack is an awesome collaboration tool for teams. I am not really sure this is the place to detail the range of its features, but I will share that the music team at my school has been using Slack for the past few months and it has been a real game changer. It is coming to replace both text messaging and email for us. The basic idea behind Slack is that a team can have multiple different "channels" within their team which are basically conversation threads. Any member of the team can be in any channel. For example, all of the people in our team who teach band or orchestra classes are part of an instrumental music channel where we have almost all of our digital communication about that subject. The choir guy doesn't have to see any of that conversation. There is a general channel for general communication and even a random channel so that my endless gifs do not annoy my coworkers by disrupting otherwise productive discussions. Slack takes the cruft and formality out of the picture, enabling simple text conversation while also empowering us to be way better organized about the way we collaborate on different projects. Slack also has tons of integrations with other services. For example, with the Google Drive integration, I can share Google Docs right from within a Slack channel and other users can comment on it or launch right into it.

1Password - My favorite app for managing passwords, software serial numbers, secure notes, and more. I never forget a password with this app. And Touch ID on my iPad allows me to log in anywhere by simply touching my thumb to the home button.

Scrivener - Scrivener is a non-linear writing tool. I used the Mac version to write my book. I am beginning to plan some other writing projects and am enjoying the ability to sync my projects from Mac to iPad and back again.

comiXology - I pretty much only have time to read comic books in the summer. If you are in to this sort of thing, Amazon's comiXology app is the place to buy and read your comics (actually, because Amazon likes to avoid paying Apple's 30 percent of every purchase, you will have to buy the comics from Amazon or comiXology's website). comiXology has this cool feature I like where it smartly detects the ends of the frames and allows you to scroll through each of them full screen. Right now, I am reading the Walking Dead series.

BusyCal - I am trying out this Calendar replacement right now. Usually, my calendar app of choice is Fantastical but BusyCal allows me to do some interesting things like, for example, associate contacts in my address book with events for better context.

My favorite apps of 2015

I feel the need to defend these apps in a way that I didn't for my favorite albums of 2015 list I posted yesterday. In part, this is because music's role in my life has a certain type of inevitability that makes it difficult for me to immediately understand its value myself. Secondly, the music I experienced this past year is worth so many more words than I could possibly type. Finally, apps, especially paid ones, tend to require a defense; a "why do I need to buy this?" Their value is also often technical and practical, and can be condensed down into a few sentences.

Productivity

Documents by Readdle

I can't remember what getting work done on an iPad or iPhone felt like before discovering this app. Think of this as the missing Finder on iOS.

Due

My new favorite for setting timers and reminders. I like how persistently it bugs me until I actually complete the task.

Workflow

Unbelievable automator for creating multi step workflows on iOS.

Scannable

For getting all physical paper into the cloud as beautifully formatted, text searchable, PDFs. Syncs effortlessly to Evernote, lightning fast, and zero step scanning.

Apple Notes

Stellar update this year to the notes app that comes bundled with Apple devices. I love the rich text formatting, web clipping, and list support.

OmniGraffle

A great app by the makers of two of my favorites: OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. OmniGraffle has come to replace Adobe Illustrator for me. It is my go-to for designing graphics. Specifically, I use it to design seating charts for my classes.

IFTTT

Amazing service for linking different internet connected services and devices. You can create if-then statements to automate them. Example: If I am tagged in a Facebook post, save that photo to my Dropbox. Another example: When I arrive at home, then turn on the lights in my house.

Paprika

Cooking game changer! My wife and I clip recipes from the web into this app and it formats them beautifully so we can isolate ingredients, directions, and set timers. It has a built in grocery list and meal planning feature that can send data to Apple Reminders and Calendar apps, respectively.

Overcast

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts this year. Overcast offers the best experience of all the podcast apps I have tried.

Music

forScore

Not a new app to me but I have really taken to organizing my scores on the iPad with this app over the last year. It has truly revolutionized my musical workflow throughout my band directing, private teaching, gigging, and church music directing jobs.

Tempo

Still my favorite metronome app on iOS.

Tunable

My favorite tuning app. Features gamified tuning, polyphonic tuning drones, just intonation, and simultaneous metronome and tuner playback.

Health

Using these apps (and more) in combination with the Apple Health app and Apple Watch, I have lost about 30 pounds since late August. Ok, really, I worked out and changed my diet some, but the apps helped.

Waterminder

Helps me set goals for water consumption and see my progress each day. Logging water is easy with the Apple Watch app and all data syncs to the Apple Health app.

Lark

This app is fun for tracking work outs and food, but I use it primarily to track the hours I sleep each night. It accomplishes this through the motion of my iPhone.

myfitnesspal

I have been using this app to track calorie and nutrition data for almost a year now. Really easy and addictive to use once you get into a routine.

Spire

This app, in combination with the wearable tracker by the same name, has allowed me to track trends in my breathing for the last few months. The app categorizes my breathing patterns into "focus," "tense," "calm," and "activity." When it senses a streak of tension, it sends my watch a message to breathe slower. It also allows me to set goals for minutes of focus per day, offers guided meditation, and syncs respiratory rate data to Apple Health.

Home

All of these require home automated hardware to be useful. By recommending them, I am recommending the devices themselves as well.

Harmony

Automated TV remote. No more fuss over HDMI inputs and multiple remotes. This app controls all of the things plugged into my TV and allows me to trigger different things on and off with simple one tap button presses.

Philips Hue

Lights that connect to wifi. These can be controlled from a phone app, automated with services like IFTTT, and commanded with Siri.

Sonos

High quality speakers that connect to one another over a home wifi network.

Games

Crossy Road

Shooty Skies

PAC-MAN 265